Respiratory Syncytial Virus - The Unrecognised Cause of Health and Economic Burden Among Young Children in Australia

Geetha Ranmuthugala, Laurie Brown, Brett Lidbury

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35 Citations (Scopus)


Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) presents very similar to influenza and is the principle cause of bronchiolitis in infants and young children worldwide. Yet, there is no systematic monitoring of RSV activity in Australia. This study uses existing published data sources to estimate incidence, hospitalisation rates, and associated costs of RSV among young children in Australia. Published reports from the Laboratory Virology and Serology Reporting Scheme, a passive voluntary surveillance system, and the National Hospital Morbidity Dataset were used to estimate RSV-related age-specific hospitalisation rates in New South Wales and Australia. These estimates and national USA estimates of RSV-related hospitalization rates were applied to Australian population data to estimate RSV incidence in Australia. Direct economic burden was estimated by applying cost estimates used to derive economic cost associated with the influenza virus. The estimated RSV-related hospitalisation rates ranged from 2.2–4.5 per 1,000 among children less than 5 years of age to 8.7–17.4 per 1,000 among infants. Incidence ranged from 110.0–226.5 per 1,000 among the under five age group to 435.0–869.0 per 1,000 among infants. The total annual direct healthcare cost was estimated to be between $24 million and $50 million. Comparison with the health burdens attributed to the influenza virus and rotavirus suggests that the disease burden caused by RSV is potentially much higher. The limitations associated with using a passive surveillance system to estimate disease burden, and the need to explore further assessments and to monitor RSV activity are discussed. Commun Dis Intell 2011;35(2):177–184.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)177-184
Number of pages8
JournalCommunicable Diseases Intelligence Quarterly Report
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2011


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